Thursday, August 18, 2005

Random Checks

Hey watch those places you walk
and mind the way you talk
Watch out for the vampire who will sneak up in the dark
Watch out for the big time thief who claim say that dem smart
and bring in the crack and the gun to mash up the yout dem heart

Earth a run red
I hear a next yout dead!

Earth a run red - Richie Spice

We've had quite a string of murders in Toronto in recent weeks, mainly young black men getting gunned down on the streets. Its allegedly some sort of gang issue, assuming as the Police and Press have done that most of these murders are actually associated somehow, and they seem to be occurring mainly in some of the poorer (read predominantly black) neighborhoods in the city.

It has all sparked quite a cry of concern and also outrage from the general public, politicians, the press and everyone in the city. We pride ourselves here in Canada on being a gentler version of our North American neighbor, the U.S, and indeed if one compares the average U.S city's crime rates with ours then you can see that we do come in at quite a lower rate than they do. Only 41 murders so far in Toronto this year, 33 gunshot related. When you think that officially we have about 2.5 million people living here that's a drop in the ocean but murders cant be just viewed as isolated events as one cannot shouldn't ignore the actual anguish visited on friends and loved ones of the victim.

But I guess the infrequency of murders here compared to other big cities is one of the reasons why any spate of shootings stands out in our society. Unlike other places we are not yet desensitized to that sort of violence so any shooting still is a big deal to us.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comSo the questions remain, what do we do about this recent spate of shootings and where are these young men getting such easy access to guns? Clearly no one in the areas affected actually manufactures the weapon of choice. I mean aint no weapons factories in Rexdale or Regent or Flemmo, so they must be coming in from somewhere outside these areas and someone probably in a gated mansion somewhere well removed from the affected areas or at least in a mildly affluent neighborhood is probably profiting quite well from the sale of these weapons.

The violence perpetrated with these weapons is a serious situation and not one to be dealt with lightly in my opinion but when a black councilman in Toronto can openly call for Police to conduct random checks on young black men in certain communities as a step to somehow stopping these shootings I've got to sit back and just think about this whole situation really closely.

Image hosted by Photobucket.comTruthfully I was very upset when I read about this in yesterday's newspaper. Did Councillor Michael Thompson flip his lid? Naa he couldn't really be serious about this could he? I felt betrayed somehow. I just could not believe that a black man would advocate giving policemen carte blanche on such an issue. Weren't we just complaining about racial profiling a few months back? Was he not at one time a young black man himself?

Now I wont go as far as Royston James did in his column yesterday (you can check that out at the Toronto Star but you have to subscribe to view it) in suggesting that others have dubbed Councillor Thompson an Uncle Thompson but I most strenuously disagree with the councillor's suggestion.

I'm sure there are some who wholeheartedly agree with his stance though and will say well at least he is postulating ideas while I'm just criticizing. Its a time for tough love, the kid's gloves must come on, by any means necessary we must stop this violence even if it means condoning racial profiling they will say. Well while I don't want to be accused of being soft on criminals I still disagree with the councillors suggestion.

I believe that his comments were out of place and that subscribing to his line of thought would only make situations worse. But then after all I am biased by being a young black man (even if I'm starting to grey a bit) and a law abiding citizen and I would hate to be living in a state where policemen can just routinely stop me to search me simply because of the color of my skin and the neighborhood I'm in AND its actually a policy which has been agreed upon by my government. Notice I added that last distinction because black men still face much racism and accusations from policemen in North America but at least the state does not 'publicly' condone these acts anymore.

Councillor Thompson suggestion implies that a majority of young black men out in these target neighborhoods are gun carriers or criminals. Has it been proven that the young men who live in these neighborhoods are indeed the perpetrators of these crimes as it could just as easily be outsiders committing them. This implication is also a judgment on all young black men and has far reaching implications. Here is one of our own, saying he has given up on us and its time to treat us as less than full citizens of this country by trampling on our rights. Now I could see this being spewed by our former right wing Reform or Canadian Alliance political parties but a black man actually thrusting forth this suggestion into the public realm is mind boggling to me.

I mean there is already a certain stigma that goes with dwelling in certain areas but now you are literally painting all of those residents with one broad brush saying that they are all bad people. And what percentage of these folk have guns we ask that this solution is seen as feasible? How many law abiding innocent citizens will be stopped and stripped of their dignity, as they go about their daily routine in these neighborhoods, in this policy for the return of possibly one gun. How many will be victims because they just happen to live in an targeted area? Simple victims of location. What ratio is good enough, if we stop and harass 15 to get one gun is that considered a success, what about 20, 30, 50 for one. If 50 young black men are stopped, searched and harassed and possibly scarred for life and we find one gun does that justify this policy, how about 100? What's to stop a black man from giving his gun to a female or a white man, or will the policy then extend to searching everyone in that particular neighborhood? Here's a thought lets just barrier off the entire area, give them special id cards and search them everytime they leave that area too.

How will random searches affect the already less than tepid relationships between community and law enforcement when the majority of black men stopped prove to be innocent? You really think you're going to get the community to help out if you are randomly searching and harassing the innocent? Have we not seen images of what happens in Israel and Palestine where harassment by armed forces has caused the Palestinian community to coalesce into a unified force against the Israelis. Ok that comparison rather simplifies the Middle Eastern situation but again if police are allowed powers to randomly search black men just based on location we would be creating a situation where the animosity between groups is raised to such a level that all relations are permanently soured. All that would exist is anger. How does this help law enforcement?

Plus wouldn't we be enforcing a stereotype on these young men? Why should the law abiding continue to be law abiding in these areas if they will be harassed? You're telling these young men that they are all criminals and need to be checked simply because they happen to be black. Shout it out too often and too loudly and you know what they will all start to believe it and then what?

I'm not denying that its a bad situation all around since something must be done to combat the violence but random searches, really?

Before such a reactionary move have we even looked at the causes of this violence? Why do we have a lost generation of black youth in these areas. Oh I don't know is it perhaps because the schooling in these areas is sub-par, is it regional and municipal governments have slashed and cut a lot of the community services and after school programs in these areas that would have helped to keep these kids out of trouble, is it that the young men from these areas who want a job or training are frustrated in their efforts to find either? Is it that our black leaders are ineffective and others rather than make an effort make asinine comments like Councillor Thompson. What I'm saying, even though I may be labeled an apologist, is that even though there are guilty amongst these young men who have chosen their criminal path, society has also failed them. Both society in the more local sense of their parents and friends and society in the larger sense as in their leaders and government. Have we thought about that?

Ok maybe the horse has bolted the barn on this generation and we've thrown in the towel but are we doing anything to fix it for the next one or will we wait till their cycle of violence starts to begin postulating on even more draconian measures to keep them in check?

Oh well at least the police don't agree with Councillor Thompson hey even Councillor Thompson doesn't agree with his statements anymore.


4panist said...

I almost missed the part at the end where the counsellor retracted his statements but its too little too late. the idea is out there and it was put out by a black man. does this man suffer from short term memory? was he born big. thanks Jdid for the post. I don't have a solution either but you gave good insight as to how we may have gotten here.

Yamfoot said...

They should ban gun manufacturers.

If the police keep seizing guns and no more are made, the supply will eventually diminish.

Big N said...

"Mr. Thompson said he had been advised by a lawyer that randomly targeting and questioning black youth was illegal and so he would not support it."

He needed a lawyer to tell him it was wrong?

Dr. D. said...

Sounds like Mr. Thompson is not bright enough to hold his present post if you ask me.

JDid, we here in Jamaica would be orgasmic if we had TDot's murder rate. I am ashamed to say how many have been slaughtered for this year already in this land of my birth, that educated me, nurtured me and contines to remain my home.

Randomly searching black men? I don't know know. Why not randomly search all men, and women....regardless of skin colour?

The problem with gun crimes is that they do seem to be concentrated in ceratin locales, and sad as it may be, the people who live in these areas, even if they are decent law abiding citizens who make a contribution to socity suffer on account of the bad eggs...stereotyping again if you like. Another reason why I dislike use of the term 'Inner City' as it implies that all who live there belong to a certain social class with a stereotypical behaviour. And this does not have to be so.

Yamfoot's point is valid...clamp down on the manufacturers of guns. Don't allow people to have ready access to firearms (the USA is way too armed)....but overall, no easy solution. Many good points viewed here.

Inside Man said...

"Even in Toronto's Gun Powder...."

Seems like Mr. Thompson has read Giuliani's book. Instead of admonishing the manufacturer or wholesaler, they'll use their Zen like patience to stiffle the offender at lowest level.

Luke Cage said...

Most of us are oblivious to our neighbor's to the norths woes as far as crime is concerned. As so carefully layed out in Michael Moore's Fahrenheit 911, we were informed of how low the crime rate in all of Canada was as compared to the violence that plagues America's streets.

As is the case with 9/11 and terrorism, those that we trust to protect our shores and our streets are stretched thin. They don't have no clue as to what to do next to combat certain elements of crime and terrorist acts. Such as the way the U.S. gov't instituted that silly color code bar to detail levels of aggression against our country.

Such is what this councillor, Thompson is attempting to do. He has to give the "impression" that he's trying to do something. That this situation is important enough to go into action. He knows like we do, this is no way to reduce crime and violence. Anyone who thinks that this is the way is completely clueless. After all, look what they are doing in NYC.

Checking out people with back packs. They know it can't work. But they have to look like they are doing something. I'm sure he knows this isn't the way to make changes. You risk antagonizing the very people you are there to protect and to make safe. Good post man.

Abeni said...

Good to see sense prevailed because that idea was just opening a whole can of worms.

dorna! said...

Sounds like Councillor Thompson was playing politics with a life and death issue. So, politics for politics, his constituents need to be the ones to rise up and tell him get his dumb arse out of office. Ditto on Dr D's comment. We in St lucia would also be orgasmic over TO's homicide rate.

Campfyah said...

racial profiling, criminal profiling it all comes down to the black mans fault. How pitiful. Why not the gun manufacutrers and the sellers. Why not look at the real issue of the murders. No, cause that involves common sense and sensibility which don't occur within the halls of government. Is this Councilman up for reelection and looking for votes? It seems nowadays that just being black is a crime, farless young, black and male.

Anonymous said...
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Amadeo said...

I'm still getting over the 44 murders this year...we've had (in a city of about 500,000 or so) 177 murders this year...damn.

Sunshine said...

Hi jdid-I think that Mr. Thompson is on Crack! He's flip flopping with his decisions. Not a good sign of a leader at all. He's obviously under pressure to do something about this rash of violence. I don't think there will ever be a solution to gun violence and I don't have one. Racial profiling so alive and well right here in this area that I live. I see it as I drive to and from work. A young black male in a Lincoln SUV was stopped. A black working man in his pickup truck stopped the other day. It's evident that color prejudice is alive and well in this particular neighborhood that I drive on my way to work. Sad.

sonyared said...

I wish there was a solution...always the black neighborhoods no matter where u go. Everyone just does and never thinks....No one thinks about consequences and politicians...I don't know. I remember once Chris Rock was referring to Streets named after famous black leaders(e.g Malcolm X Blvd, Martin Luther King Blvd) and he stated something bad is always ging down on those Blvds...sad

Zantiferous3 said...

LOL@ even Councillor Thompson doesn't agree with his statements anymore.

Racial profiling is some shit. I have a friend who traded his Mercedes in for an Accord. He couldn't take gettign stopped every two seconds. It's really a damn shame.

As for Councillor Thompson's comments... they are scary. Scary because it brings to mind a post that Soul Rendezvous wrote a long time ago that I will never forget. She listed different stages and asked her readers what stage they thought Blacks in America were in, it went from Slavery to freedom to complacency and had some others in between but wound up coming back full circle to slavery. And when you hear public officials PUBLICLY making those sorts of statements you just really wonder... how far away are we from coming full circle. *sigh*

ThandieLand said...

At first glance this Thompson man looked like Andrew Young...the UN rep for the USA a few decades ago & civil rights activist from Atlanta.

Stunner said...

Fi real The crime situation is getting from bad to worse, especially here in Jamaica. It's terrible down here! If it was only 41 so far in Jamaica things would be great. We've gone over 800 since January and Jamaica isn't even a fraction the size of Canada. It's like a civil war!